Shin: Let’s make gender equality about everyone


Heiwon Shin, Columnist

Recently, students wearing business attire filled Sheridan Road. Dressing smart and looking for potential internships or jobs, Northwestern students were seen going to and from the two-day career fair.

Such a career fair is one of the defining moments of college. It is when life outside of college becomes a near reality. It’s time for students’ hard work to shine.

But controversies like Tinder CEO’s sexual harassment scandal and the #Gamergate incident make me question what “the real world out there” may really be like.

The #Gamergate incident in particular resonated with me. Women in the video game industry have been bombarded with criticism and sometimes even rape and death threats just for being women. Zoe Quinn was accused by her boyfriend of cheating with a journalist in order to receive publicity for a video game she developed. Following such allegations, I could understand accusations for corruption. I don’t know the full truth, but based solely on what was released to the public, it’s not hard to understand where the logic flows. But where the whole #Gamergate backlash came from is another question, from rape or death threats, hacking personal information, photos and hacking into personal rights. This is simply wrong. There’s nothing that can justify such extremities.

Underlying the #Gamergate incident is the larger issue of treatment and portrayal of women in the video game industry and society. The two go hand in hand. Overly sexualized female figures in the video game industry contribute to stereotypes and objectifying women.

Sexism is not news at all. We’re born into it – girls into pink and boys into blue. Anytime I go to Target, for instance, I can clearly see where the “girl toys” and the “boy toys” are just based on the color. We later learn to break out of it, but what happens in the past still affects the present.

Behaving outside of your social “expectations” can lead to persecutions. Last quarter, I watched “Ma Vie en Rose,” a movie that poignantly embodies such a situation. Ludovic, the protagonist, is a girl in spirit trapped in a boy’s body. Ludovic is ostracized by his neighbors, whereas his friend, a tomboy, isn’t because their society values masculinity over femininity. In other words, it’s OK for girls to “man up,” but it’s not OK for boys to be feminine. Yes, the movie is somewhat dated (1997), and not everything in it is directly applicable to society today. But such stigma and discrimination still carries on.

However, there are positive signs of change. Take the Pink Helmet Posse, for instance. Bella, Relz and Sierra, three girls who make tutorials, share their love for skateboarding and encourage other young girls to try skateboarding, despite it being a “boy sport.” The founder of GoldieBlox, Debbie Sterling, also encourages young girls to pursue science and engineering through toys that give girls confidence in problem solving and critical thinking.

The point is, don’t try to accommodate for girls and women. The true meaning of gender equality is not “feminism” that stands for protecting and promoting only female rights. Gender equality should be about everyone — protecting everyone against stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination.

The NU community, as part of a leading educational institution, has the power to make a difference. We should reach beyond by making gender equality one of our primary priorities.

For example, the Knight Lab, a joint media innovation lab between the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications and the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, can reach out to current students or even to the Evanston community and inspire kids to explore their potential without gender discrimination or judgment.

The society we live in is not the prettiest. We sometimes believe sexism is only something we see on the news. We hail individuals like Malala Yousafzai for coming out of a sexist society as a heroic victor. However, even though our society may not manifest in a similar form, sexism still lurks amidst us and will continue to do so if we, as individuals and groups, do not actively search for ways to end it.

Heiwon Shin is a Medill sophomore. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].